I first read The Beach by Alex Garland when it was first published almost 12 years ago. I read it during a long flight and considering I always feel sleepy while traveling, I don’t think I did much justice to it. Ended up feeling somewhat underwhelmed.
The Beach is a story of Richard a young American backpacker who wants to be a traveler (not a tourist). When he visits Thailand he wants a unique experience. He wants to stray off the tourist beaten track. He meets a stranger who befriends him and talks to him about a lonely secret beach on an isolated island, and gives him a map to the place. Richard decides to explore the beach, and he convinces a young French couple to go with him. What follows next is a strange combination of Lord of the Flies and Stranger in a Strange Land.
Since I didn’t care too much for the book and because the movie had poor reviews, I wasn’t expecting any great stuff when I caught the movie last week. But, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
The movie is a very good-looking one. Leo di Caprio playing the role of the American tourist Richard, and Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen as the French couple look gorgeously sun-kissed. The backdrop of Thailand – both the sleazy bits and the beautiful beaches rock. Having been to Thailand a couple of years back, it was great to revisit it through this movie.
The story in the movie though diverges significantly from the book and I often found myself surprised by what was happening. For example, the romance between Richard and Francoise (which is not in the book) was alright and believable. But I found that to include the romance, some of the meat from the book was left out, making the movie a rather shallow adaptation. The latter part of the movie ends up being rushed and rather senseless, and leads to a very tame finale.
In spite of it all, this movie is pretty enjoyable. It may not suit everyone, but then the book is also a little blah. I did read this about 12 years ago when I was quite the innocent, and so found a lot of the drug and hippie philosophy somewhat off-putting.
But now if given a chance, I would love to spend months on the beach taking a break from all the daily stresses of my life and probably that’s why the movie now appeals to me so much 🙂 . I think if I re-read the book now, I might like it a lot better.